It was quite a sight to behold. On Monday, Louise Adler, the director of Adelaide Writers’ Week and a high-profile critic of contemporary Israel, was the subject of a soft interview on ABC TV’s 7.30 program. The interviewer was Laura Tingle.

Towards the end of the segment, Tingle asked: “As a Jewish Australian, I wonder how you see what has been happening in terms of the capacity for people to speak out.” Adler replied: “Well, I think it’s a tragedy that we are being silenced.”

So there was Adler on one of the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster’s leading current affairs programs, complaining she lacked a platform. It’s called self-delusion.

And now for a brief backstory. Apart from being 7.30’s chief political correspondent and occasional presenter, Tingle files a column for The Weekend Australian Financial Review. On Saturday, December 2, she wrote in support of three actors who took a curtain call at the Sydney Theatre Company’s performance of The Seagull the previous Saturday wearing keffiyehs around their shoulders.

This trio were indicating their support for Palestinians in the current Israel-Gaza war. The other two actors did not join the silent demonstration. Tingle objected to the criticism directed at the trio and complained about “the bitter and dangerous reductionism in political debates in Australia”. Meaning the likes of the keffiyeh-wearing trio were being silenced.

Tingle then complained that some unnamed politicians along with some media outlets “seem to be emphasising only a rise in anti-Semitism in Australia without acknowledging a rise in Islamophobia”. More self-delusion.

In recent times, chants of “f..k the Jews” and “gas the Jews” have been heard on Sydney’s streets. And convoys of men have headed from their suburbs to protest against Israel in areas of Sydney and Melbourne in which many Jewish Australians live. Muslim Australians have not been subjected to similar intimidation. Tingle should be aware of this.

In any event, on December 2, Tingle backed the STC actors who engaged in the protest. Then on Monday, December 4, in her capacity as acting presenter, Tingle spoke to Adler, whom she knew supported the views in her AFR column, on 7.30.

Adler ran the intellectually pretentious line that “actors, artists, writers have always had political views”, implying they should always be noted. And she quoted poet Percy B. Shelley as saying artists are the unacknowledged legislators of the world. This is arrant nonsense. When it comes to international and national politics, actors are no better qualified to comment than stagehands or makeup artists. There is no causal connection between political judgment and artistic skills.

Moreover, Adler does not seem to appreciate that there is a difference between an actor signing a petition or putting up a post and stating their views before a captive audience, the members of which have no right of reply.

Adler went on to complain about the “Israel lobby” and to mock STC donors who threatened to withdraw support from the company “from the comfort of their airconditioned theatre”. The implication was that this amounted to a case of wealthy Jews behaving badly – since some Jewish donors had complained about the demonstration.

However, neither Adler nor Tingle condemned the barbarity of the Hamas terrorists who invaded southern Israel on October 7 – raping women and murdering babies in the process. It was not that kind of interview.

Adler also complained that attempts had been made to silence her choice of speakers on Palestinian literary culture at the AWW this year. But she failed to mention that the 2023 taxpayer-subsidised AWW was a left-wing stack that included two Palestinian artists who had engaged in anti-Semitism. I wrote about this in my column on February 25.

What was missing from 7.30 on Monday was any debate. Michael Gawenda is the author of the recently published My Life as a Jew (Scribe) and a former editor of The Age. Like Adler, Gawenda is a person of the left – but he does not embrace the green-left desire to have Israel wiped off the map and he is genuinely, and correctly, concerned about the rise of rampant anti-Semitism in Western nations.

An Adler/Gawenda debate would have made for lively television. But such discussions are rare on the ABC these days. Gawenda has penned a withering critique of the Tingle/Adler interview in his Gawenda Unleashed! on Substack. Read it for a glimpse of what ABC censorship prevents viewers from witnessing.

The absence of debate on the taxpayer-funded public broadcaster has been acknowledged, albeit reluctantly, by the ABC. It has just released the report of the Referendum Coverage Review Committee – signed off by Mark Maley, the ABC’s manager of editorial policies.

It is known that the ABC tries very hard to provide balance in the lead-up to elections and referendums. It kind of sets up a stopwatch to calculate balance between the contested parties. Even so, this was not achieved with respect to the October 14 referendum on whether an Indigenous voice to parliament and the executive should be placed in the Constitution.

According to Maley, “of the coverage that expressed a position on the voice, 51 per cent was in support and 23 per cent was against”. Yet on October 14, 39 per cent voted yes and 61 per cent voted no. Maley wrote that “all (ABC) teams reported that it was significantly more difficult getting No voices to speak on the record”.

He pointed out that “Senator (Jacinta) Nampijinpa Price declined at least 52 interview requests with the ABC”. Price told Nine newspapers her “role in this campaign was to ask Australians to vote no … not to boost the ratings on the failing activist ABC”.

That’s the problem for the ABC. Many political conservatives decline invitations to appear on programs because they get confronted by hostile journalists and/or audiences, or because they cannot be bothered. While other conservatives have been “cancelled”, Price is an example of the former; Gawenda of the latter. Meanwhile, the likes of Adler get soft questions from Tingle while asserting “it is impossible to be a critic of Israel”.